By David Brand
Chief Judge Janet DiFiore praised Supreme Court, Criminal Term Administrative Judge Joseph Zayas and Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown for efficiently adjudicating felony cases over two years old during her annual State of the Judiciary Address.
DiFiore, speaking at the Bronx Supreme Court Civil Term courthouse Tuesday, reviewed the progress on her three-year-old “Excellence Initiative,” an effort she introduced in 2016 to make the courts more efficient based on the notion that “justice delayed is justice denied.”
“[A] bright spot has been Queens, where the number of felony cases over two years old has declined by 76 percent since the start of the Excellence Initiative,” DiFiore said. “And this effort has been led from the top by Administrative Judge Joseph Zayas, with the active participation of District Attorney Richard Brown and, of course, the dedicated lawyers who provide defense services in Queens County.”
DiFiore said there was still much work to be done across the city and state to increase efficiency, however.
“I am reminded of that reality every time I review our weekly statistics. And I know the public is reminded every time another news story is published revealing the circumstances of defendants housed on Rikers Island while awaiting or standing trial in cases pending for three or four years or sometimes even longer,” she said.
DiFiore also praised New York City Criminal Courts for prioritizing the “efficient adjudication of misdemeanor cases.” She said that the number of older misdemeanor cases pending for more than a year has decreased throughout the five boroughs.
“Three years ago, some were convinced that we could not, and would not, change the landscape,” DiFiore said. “But our jurists and staff have proven them wrong and paved the way to impressive progress citywide, and especially here in the Bronx, where we have reduced the number of misdemeanors pending for more than a year by 84 percent, from 2,375 cases to 377.”
The courts “slashed” the oldest misdemeanor cases by 85 percent in Manhattan, 72 percent in Staten Island, 43 percent in Brooklyn and 27 percent in Queens, she said.
“That is a remarkable turnaround, and the credit goes, first and foremost, to our Criminal Court Judges and staff for putting in the hard work, and to our leadership team,” she said.